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Spiritual Mysteries of Jerusalem. Today is 12/21/09 in Jerusalem

_MG_4201EarlyVendorWoke in the middle of the night hearing, “take the laptop with me to my 8am meeting at St. James and show my Czech Journal as an example of what I do with the photos I take”.

Went back to sleep.

Was awakened again by the Muslim pre-dawn prayer call.

Went back to sleep.

Sister Lilianna calls for my early wake up.

I leave to walk to St. James in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. The morning sun illuminating the East side of the city and I see I will be changing my one daily meal to the dinner meal so I can leave at sunrise each morning after Christmas. Through Damascus Gate – street vendors are not out yet, the streets are empty.

I am carrying a full pack with extra lenses and my 17” Mac Book Pro anticipating a good meeting with Fr. Voskin at St. James. 7:50am – I am at St. James waiting for mass to end.

It is 8:30

It is 8:45

The pack is heavy and I am getting restless. I write a letter to Fr. Voskin to leave hoping he will contact me about photographing St. James and give it to the priest in the front office.

The Priest reads it, and tells me it is not Fr. Voskin, but Mr Moussa who is in charge of this decision. Come back at 10am and rewrite the letter to Mr. Moussa.

hero_panorama1b I rewrite the letter introducing myself, and what it is I do. – then stroll: looking for something to do for the next hour. I walk toward Jaffa Gate into the Christian Quarter. A vendor by Jaffa gate starts talking to me outside his store, and I tell him I am not interested in buying anything… he says, he was just being friendly, and I apologize.

We talk a bit and he asks if I want to go to the roof of the Hostel next door to see over Jerusalem. I said I would. He takes me in and gets me access. From here I feel I get one of my “Hero” shots from the trip. I am very happy about that!! I head back to St. James and up to Mr. Moussa’s office.

I have been hearing the scripture to keep knocking and asking.

We talk, he asks what I am going to do with the photos. I pop open my laptop and begin showing him my Czech Journal.

Another man walks over and asks questions. He says I am not allowed to photograph a mass. I assure him I only want to shoot the church empty.

He turns out to be Bishop Sevon and tells me I should come back Saturday at 8am and I can photograph the mass from the side… and maybe the empty church after but they need to talk about it to the Arch-Bishop.

I am stoked.

Bishop Sevon and I talk a while longer – he has been in Jerusalem for 43 years. He feels it was better for the Armenians under Arab control before 1967. It is much more tense now and the different groups are not as cordial as they were. Lately, the Armenian Priests are being spat on by Israeli youth. He gives me a Xeroxed article from a file to take and read about it. Also, the new government wants to confine the Armenians to within the walls of the St. James Monastery.

The things I am hearing. I leave, very pleased for the opportunity to photograph St. James next Saturday, but bummed a bit that I brought all this gear and couldn’t photograph it empty today. I have another hour and a half to kill waiting to meet Rob at noon by the Cardo.

I am thinking now of what Yacov told me at Chabad Study and a few other things I have been hearing. I pray for peace in Jerusalem and Israel every time I go to the Wall.

I wait at one of the Chabads. Outside a man smokes a pipe. He is sitting, legs stretched out crossed at the ankles. He leans his back into the wall and his one arm is over his barrel belly. A photographer stops and asks to take his photo.

The man with the pipe is from Cleveland Ohio. He moved here in 1973 – came to help Jerusalem – says they needed the help; “they were in trouble then – they are again” he adds. I ask him what he thinks of the current tensions and situation.

He talks a long while and I listen and he brings in the Spiritual Mysteries of the Rock below the Dome where the Temple use to be. Spiritually and Biblically, it made a lot of sense and it is too involved for me to elaborate upon here… though maybe at a later date for the Consecrated Space Blog.

img_2909robertabraham Eventually we part and I go to find a way to call Rob from a merchant’s phone. Rob is nearby. We meet. I haven’t seen Rob for a decade. We taught together at the Laguna College of Art and Design. In the beginning part of his book, he tells his return to Judaism testimony here – it is quite interesting.

I try a fallafel… now I can say I have had one. We eat at his friend Moshe’s apartment on the rooftop overlooking East Jerusalem. Rob shares with me more of the mystery of the ‘Rock” upon which the Temple was built and the Mosque stands. He tells me that God has hidden His Face from the Jews, but that in the destruction of the Temple, He left the one wall standing, and it has always remained untouched, as a sign of His Presence. It is the closest the Jews can get to what was once the Holy of Holies. A tunnel goes under ground from the outside wall and a small synagogue was built nearer to that special coveted point where Special prayer meetings take place early in the morning. All very intriguing.

We move down to Ha-Kotel, Gil is there and puts on the tefillin for me and takes my picture with Rabbi Shmuli and Yohuda. Prayers. Talks.

Rob and I catch a bus and head out Jaffa Road to a place that looks to me like a Jewish Ghetto. We walk around there for a while, I buy some ibuprophen, and we end up at the open-air market I was told about as a must to witness. I decide to come back here another time and do some documenting of the life. I buy some almonds and dates.

Rob and I part ways there and I walk back to the convent. It is a good hike.

At the convent, Nils is there (Nils and Barbara arrived yesterday – Nils’ great aunt is Sister Elisabeth who rebuilt and expanded the Bridgettine order from collapse. He and his wife visit the convents – they have stayed at 20 of the 50 so far).

I meet him in the TV room (I did not know there was a TV room, with high def TV no less), And we drink through 6 shots each of smoky Bowmore Islay Single Malt 12 year Scotch Whiskey, and a sweet Auchentoshan Single malt 12 year Scotch Whiskey with almonds I bought at the open air market.

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